Contributed by Oliver Booth of Sheffield-based Side by Side.
Over the last 16 months we have been working with Grimm & Co, a young person’s literacy charity and magical apothecary in Rotherham. The writing and mentoring space aims to help young people to acquire skills, unlock potential, and develop imaginations.
The new charity is part of the Ministry of Stories family and has used the same concept of a workshop and mentoring centre fronted by a magical — but real — shop. Grimm & Co is an ‘Apothecary to the Magical’, selling wild schemes, evil plots, and kitchenware.
With more than £100,000 worth of time donated, the decision to get involved wasn’t easy, but we couldn’t turn it down. We were recommended by Alistair Hall, the designer behind our London counterpart, Hoxton Street Monster Supplies. With the guarantee of a blank canvas, free reign, and a really worthwhile charity, it was too exciting to say no to.
What started out as potential for a great portfolio piece soon became an addictive project that allowed our studio to develop a lot of skills. As a small studio, time management was crucial. However, we stopped tracking time after 1,000 hours, we found it better to not know!
The core strategy behind the project was authenticity. We started by working with League of Gentlemen writer Jeremy Dyson, to develop the character of “Graham Grimm,” the imaginary founder. The backstory we created included lines like “Sandpaper, Spit & Sausages for Tea” which we thought gave a great insight to how Grimm would have ran his business. We constantly had to ask ourselves, “Would Graham have done it like that?”
We’d portrayed him as an ill-tempered, hard-grafting, thrifty chap, so those traits had to flow through everything, from the hand-torn packaging, to the up-cycled interior. To ensure a totally immersive experience we pushed ourselves to become sign-writers, sound-scapers and prop-makers, to accompany our day-to-day skills.
Being creative has afforded us a career, so it seemed only fair to give back to a charity that actively stimulates creativity in the next generation.
We brought in local makers and artists to create unique items to sell in the shop, from hand-whittled wands to blocks of “Human Phlegm.”
To follow on from the overarching story we created, the products celebrate imperfection. Some are misaligned and the “Extract of Genius” is spelt wrong on a few labels. It was surprisingly hard to design things incorrectly!
It’s expected that more than 1,300 young people will be able to take part in writing classes in the first year of Grimm & Co through story making workshops, school writing programmes, after school clubs, and holiday camps for 7-18 year olds.
- Metal & Dust (interior pieces, signage)
- Lord Whitney (Grimm’s office and prop making)
- Roanna Wells (wand maker)
- Helena Fletcher (photographer)
- Studio van Hoorebeek (architecture)
- Andy Greasley (joinery)
- Plus many more amazing volunteers